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Ethnic Chinese in Local Government Councils

This contribution has been submitted to Webdiary by a student in the Online Journalism unit for the Masters in Media Practice and Masters in Publishing courses at The University of Sydney as part of the unit's assessment. The topics covered in the pieces awaiting publication are interesting – and diverse. We hope that Webdiarists will enjoy reading them, as well as giving these aspiring journalists plenty of constructive commentary.


Ethnic Chinese in Local Government Councils
by Yun Lou

Local council elections 2008 were held on Saturday 13 September. Eight Chinese-Australian candidates were in the election of Councillors to the Burwood Council, including four for the Unity Party, one for Labour, one for Liberal and two independent candidates.

Burwood is a multicultural suburb. Ethnic Chinese are the most populous minority in this area. They have been integrated with the host society and feel an increasing consciousness of taking part in politics.

In the past, ethnic Chinese only paid attention to carrying out the principle of more income for those who work more. Nowadays, however, many Chinese people spend their time on voting and running for council members. For only when you integrate with the majority of the society can you be noticed by local politicians.

Hence, Chinese citizens are no longer marginal and spectators of elections. Chinese people’s sense of political participation in Australia is rising. It is manifested in the following three ways. First, the number of applications for mayors and councillors within the Chinese communities is increasing. Second, Chinese people have become more conscious of political rights and their vote rate has been growing. Third, young Chinese from 20 to 30 years old have more political ambitions than their parents and have been entering the majority of society.

To achieve self-realization in a new community, skin colour and educational background are not important factors, but an ability to communicate with others on an equal footing, and with confidence, is essential. Each nation has its merits, so if we are prepared to learn from each other, neither haughty nor humble, we receive respect from others. Some new immigrants never have contact with people from their own ethnic group, while some only associate with people in the same ethnic group; but these two extreme ways are not the route to success.

“Many people worry that Ethnic Chinese who participate in the management of State affairs will suffer from discrimination. However, according to my experience, it will not happen. Most voters are educated and very rational. They elect you largely because of your ability,” said Alfred Huang, the former Adelaide Mayor.

Ethnic Chinese councillors represent not only the Chinese community, they are also able to strengthen cultural exchanges between local and Chinese communities. Therefore, it is also helpful to reduce cultural conflicts.

“I can see that those ethnic Chinese councillors repay their adoptive society, and demonstrate the viability of a multicultural Australia, what they did for community encourages other Chinese-Australians to believe in themselves and continue to serve and participate in Australian society,” said Bin Hao, an Australian citizen of Chinese origin.

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Deep connections

Hi Yun, I think at a local level Chinese councillors who have deep connections to their area - with established Chinese communities - are probably more able to meet their council's needs than someone of another ethnicity.

Your story reminded me of Dimitrios Thanos, he is the mayor of Marrickville and does an excellent job within his community - he is of Greek extraction and his council has high levels of Greek settlement (among other groups).

But is there a risk of forming "ghettos" with this practice? Are certain groups likely to receive preferential treatment?

True Xiaoli Pei

What you say is true. Over time the Chinese are just as capable of intergrating into mainstream Aussie society. The first Chinese who came here en masse were those who came during the gold rushes .Many went home after the gold petered out, but many stayed, and some of their descendants are more Aussie than me.

It is only natural to look for companionship amongst one's own in a foreign country but by the second generation soon break down the barriers that the parents might find hard to do. The important thing is for parents to encourage their kids to be part of the society, not restrict their lives as their own may be restricted. Kids like to feel included in the society in which they are growing up.

Getting involved as you are doing is the right way to go. You make friends and the process of cultural osmosis can be mutually enlightening and fun.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

Well,Yun, it is a interesting topic. With the beautiful natural scenery and preferential immigration policies, Australia has become one of the favorite choices for immigrants. It is obvious that Chinese have become one of the largest immigrant populations. Because of the language barrier and culture gap, former Chinese immigrants found it is difficult to become involved in the Australian society. Therefore, they liked to stay with people of their nationality.

However, as the next generations of immigrants grew up in Australia, they can more easily become involved in this society. Ethnic Chinese have began to pay attention to some public issues such as charitable work, election of local council and so on. They have become enthusiasm for the development of Australia.

Moreover, as an international student from China, I really felt the importance of becoming involved in the new social environment as soon as I could - as they say, When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

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